Competing by relative headcounts at rallies seems to me to be a bit like the people who used to fight with each other over the relative box office of Star Wars vs. Titanic. What the hell difference does it make? You're not getting the money anyway.
From where I was watching comfortably at home, a rally that spills over off the National Mall and into the streets, where a wave takes almost a full minute to make its way through the crowd (courtesy of the Mythbusters), is one hell of a lot of people -- not that you'll get any crowd estimates from the media pundits that Jon Stewart ended the rally today by blasting in a speech that is sure to revive the Stewart/Colbert 2012 bumper stickers once again. The Murdoch St. Journal has pretty much refused to do so at all:
How many people are on the National Mall for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert? The final answer? We don’t know.
CBC News, being outside the US, doesn't have the same qualms as the US press, and estimates the crowd at over 200,000.
I'm sure in days to come we'll see dueling aerial shots as the Who Got More Glenn Beck Or Jon Stewart debate plays out amidst the same cable news blather that was the subject of more than one photo montage today. Relative crowd counts for the two rallies are important to the extent that the Tea Party has been treated as a huge majority of Americans by the press, receiving attention far in excess of its actual numbers. Christine O'Donnell is likely to lose, but you'd never know it from the press attention she's received.
Here's what DOES matter about the comparative crowds, however.
While attendees at both rallies skewed predominantly white, many of the Beck rally's attendees were older, a good number of them on Hoveround-type scooters. Today's rallygoers skewed far younger, for all that our very own jurassicpork, who is no spring chicken, attended (and hopefully can be talked into writing a report, including photos), today's rally represented the future, while Beck's rally represents the past -- some of which never even existed the way it was remembered.
I said to Mr. Brilliant this morning that Jon Stewart would walk away today either having jumped the shark, or as the most important man in the country.
Was there ever any doubt that it would be the latter?
Whatever happens next Tuesday, think about the young faces you saw in the crowd shots from Washington DC today. The people on the Hoverounds who watch Glenn Beck and believe that Barack Obama must be a secret Muslim terrorist because he has a name that isn't English...or Irish...or Italian...or Polish; who still don't want black people moving into their neighborhoods, who are grossed out by two guys kissing because they're not used to seeing it, and who think that this is Jesus' America and long for the 1950's? Their day is over and a new one is ahead of us. They know it, and that's why they're so afraid. What we know, and what they don't yet, is that there's nothing about that new one that they should fear.
I know that there are young teabaggers, like the young Joe Miller supporter Rachel Maddow talked to in Alaska the other night who hates Obama for nominating Eric Holder, who will to take people's guns away -- but can't identify one thing Holder has done or said about guns. But the National Mall and surrounding streets were teeming with fresh young faces; yes, mostly Causasian ones, but sprinkled with black and Latino and Asian ones too. They get it. That they are this nation's future gives me at least some hope that we just might be able to survive the dying embers of hatred, greed, and bigotry.
And whether he likes it or not, whether he realizes it yet or not, a short Jewish comedian from Jersey is going to lead them.
(UPDATE: Chris Good of The Atlantic says "The immediate takeaway: The crowd was massive. Way bigger than the Glenn Beck rally in July." Of course in the alternative universe of the Teabaggers, Chris Good is a subversive liberal commie anti-American traitor for even suggesting such a thing.)